Gingerbread and mead craft

001Although bees and bee products (i.e. honey, honeycombs and wax) have been used for both food and medicine since prehistoric times, gingerbread and candle making craft appeared only in the Middle Ages. It is believed that gingerbread makers had their shops always located in the vicinity of courts or at crossings of important trade routes so as to easily obtain essential raw materials and spices for their products.

A greater interest in the craft of gingerbread making in the 16th and 17th centuries was accompanied by an increase in the production. Licitars were not hand-made any more and dough was put into various moulds to create a variety of forms. The moulds were usually wooden, but some of them were also made of clay, stone, metal or gypsum. They were of different shapes and motifs and they were the reverse of the end product. Naturally, they always reflected the age and different style periods so they reveal changing fashions but also the skill of particular craftsmen. There was an array of both religious and secular motifs. Religious motifs included those of the Old and New Testaments, figures of saints and some mythological scenes, whereas secular motifs included the bride and groom, a cot, a child wrapped in a blanket, a carriage, a horse and a horseman, animals, etc.


005 (2)The craft of gingerbread making originated in some European countries and it was Austria that had the greatest influence on its appearance in Croatia. Croatian gingerbread makers were thus closely connected with their Styrian colleagues, who were first mentioned in 1294. The second half of the 17th century saw the foundation of gingerbread makers’ guild in Graz, which also embraced the craftsmen from Varaždin and was joined by those from Koprivnica in the 18th century. In the 19th and the first half of the 20th century gingerbread making was quite developed in Croatia. However, in the second half of the 20th century the interest grew weaker. Today, in the early 21st century Croatia has only about thirty gingerbread- and candle-makers.

Apart from the upper mentioned wooden moulds, today gingerbread makers use those made of copper and tin, as well as various utensils and some technological advances such as the gas stove, the blender to make beaten egg white, etc. However, the recipe itself has remained unchanged. Each product is hand-made and separately dealt with, decorated with edible colours, most popular of which is red. There is a diversity of motifs, although they are not as rich in variety as they used to be, the most recognizable being the licitar/gingerbread heart, an authentic Croatian souvenir.